BALLSTON – Senior citizens will be urged and trained to link up to the World Wide Web in a new program unveiled Tuesday at the town library on Lawmar Lane off Lake Hill Road.
The Ballston Senior Connection is distributing a one-page survey — available on its Web site — to find out why older people may be reluctant to use the Internet, and what it would take to get them involved. Then an educator from Cornell Cooperative Extension, Sarah McFadden, will bring a “mobile lab” with iPads and laptops to train Ballston Residents in how to access the Web safely, answer their questions about it and allay their concerns. Her outreach will be funded by a Connect NY state grant.
State Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Libraries, said “Libraries have been a labor of love for me for my entire career” of almost 38 years in the Senate. The 81-year-old Farley said he was just back from a vacation trip to Europe with his daughter’s family, where he went on a 70-mile bicycle ride. He drove himself to Tuesday’s event, which he said is his regular practice, while an aide arrived separately to take photographs.
In a conversation before the event got under way, Farley said “the Senate has to put back in every year” in budget negotiations funding for library programs, including ConnectNY. (Farley also said the Senate routinely restores money for agricultural programs.)
Karen DeAngelo, director of the Town of Ballston Community Library, praised Farley’s work, noting that he helped secure funding for construction of the library building in which the event was held. Farley said he hoped the digital literacy program would spread to every library in the state.
Ballston Councilman William Goslin was identified by Town Supervisor Patrick Ziegler as the key local-government official in creating the program along with library staff. Goslin said seniors need to be connected to the Web and comfortable in the digital world, so that they can function well in the modern world. Lack of such connection, he said, may make it more likely that they become isolated and shut in to their homes.
“This is a new program in the Capital District,” said Goslin. Its goal is to break down barriers that are keeping seniors from accessing the Web, and ultimately help them to teach each other about it.
It is not clear if funding will be available for seniors to purchase iPads or other tablets or personal computer. McFadden said afterwards that such a subsidy is not part of the initial program. Still, a news release from the Town of Ballston Senior Connection mentions one of the barriers that needs to be overcome as someone who “can’t afford a[n] iPad or PC.”
Along with the town, library and cooperative extension, the state Broadband Program Office is involved, as well as Hudson Valley Wireless. Other institutions with representatives making supportive remarks at Tuesday’s event included the Office of the Aging, Capital District Physicians Health Plan, and the Southern Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.
Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, branched into politics in his remarks. He expressed support for a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November that would permit less use of paper at the Capitol, which he has long advocated. He estimated this would save as much as $50 million per year, and would also be in tune not just with digital literacy but with the spirit of Earth Day, which was celebrated on Tuesday. Tedisco closed his remarks by gesturing to Farley and adding, “And of course, we’ll be on the ballot, too,” which drew laughter from the room.
The Senior Connection news release said: “A senior who has an iPad and a wireless connection can get news, read books, communicate with relatives, watch movies, get access to health care, deal with our federal and state governments, shop, work on their hobbies and about anything else you can think of.” but without digital access and literacy, the release says, he or she “could very possibly be (or become) a ‘shut-in’. … Our vision is to create a senior community that can enjoy digital access to enhance their lives and the lives of the people around them.”
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